Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How To Get Started With Beekeeping

David has really been wanting to keep bees for a while now to help pollinate our garden and to provide us with delicious honey, and we decided this year to finally take the plunge and get started with beekeeping. We both didn't know much about beekeeping when we made this decision, but we have jumped headfirst into it and are ready to go! I am excited to share our experiences with you and hope we can help out anyone who is thinking of becoming a beekeeper through our own successes and mistakes.

I thought I would share what has been our process so far for getting started with beekeeping. We are total newbies and have no prior experience, so if you have any advice for us we'd love to hear it!
1) Get An Education
First of all, we read Beekeeping For Dummies to get a general education on all things bees. I would highly recommend the book because I feel like I have a good understanding of beekeeping now. Of course we are not experts, but I feel like after reading the book we have a solid foundation from which to start.

2) Order Your Hive
David did a lot of research on hives and we decided to order from Rossman Apiaries in Georgia. We chose the super deluxe beginners outfit which includes everything you need to get started. This hive came unassembled so David had to take a couple of weeks to put everything together. It is made out of cypress wood so it should be very durable, but we are going to paint the outside to protect the wood even more. Rossman was really great to work with and promptly answered several of our questions about the hive components after we received our order.

3) Connect With Other Beekeepers In Your Area
There is one prominent beekeeper in our area who sells his honey at all the farmers markets and the local health food store. We knew he would be a wonderful resource for us, so we contacted him via email to see if he had any advice on how to get started. He encouraged us to attend the area beekeeper's meeting last month, but we were unable to make it. Luckily, we were able to go to the meeting this month which took place last night and we learned so much! We met another beekeeper there who started keeping bees with his father when he was a teenager. He has many years of experience and at the present keeps over 900 hives! We were able to pick his brain for a while and learned so much in our conversation. I know our contacts will be an invaluable resource for us. Not only that, it is so fun to talk about bees with others who are equally as excited as we are! It seems that beekeepers love to talk about bees and are a very passionate bunch.

4) Decide How To Acquire Your Bees
There are several options for getting bees. Just starting out, you can order package bees online, but we've decided that we are most interested in obtaining a nucleus colony (called a "nuc"). With a nuc colony, you get several frames with the bees already in place, working away. To us it seems that this is a better option for first time beekeepers. The beekeeper we met last night with over 900 hives said that we could get a nuc from him next month. We will just bring him a box of six frames and he will insert four frames including the nuc into our box. He will monitor the colony for us for a couple of weeks to make sure the queen is laying and everything is running smoothly. Then we will pick up our new bees and bring them home!

It is thrilling to think that in just a few short weeks we will have bees taking up residence in our new hive. To be honest, I am a little bit scared but I'm hoping that will subside in time. I'm sure all new beekeepers feel at least somewhat nervous, right?! With any luck, the curiosity and excitement will overshadow any anxiety I have over beekeeping. I just have to get that first sting out of the way.

Do you keep bees? If not, are they on your wish list for your homestead?


Shared with Clever Chicks Blog Hop, Eco Kids TuesdayBackyard Farming Connection Hop  

Disclaimer: By clicking on the link above to Beekeeping For Dummies and making a purchase, we will receive a small commission. Rossman Apiaries did not sponsor this post and we received no compensation for our endorsement.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kale Millet Salad

I try my hardest to eat healthy all the time, but it doesn't always happen. I tend to go in cycles where I'll get on a healthy kick for a couple weeks, then I break down and eat lots of sweets. I try to ignore my sweet tooth and convince myself I'd rather eat greens than a handful of chocolate chips (my weakness), but eventually the sugar beast emerges and before I know it, I've downed nearly a whole bag of chocolate chips.

Luckily I can usually get back on track after a sugar attack, and after a recent bout with a bag of chocolate chips, I used my kale millet salad as a mini detox of sorts to get me back on the straight and narrow.

Kale Millet Salad
Serves 3-4

8-10 big kale leaves (I used lacinato kale)
1/2 cup millet
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup cannellini beans
2 T slivered almonds
1 T chia seeds (optional)
1 T hemp seeds (optional)
1/2 - 1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
Salt & pepper

1. Strip the kale leaves off the stems and chop or tear into small pieces. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil, then massage the kale until it wilts slightly and softens (a couple of minutes).
2. Mix in the millet, mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, beans, almonds, chia, and hemp seeds. Squeeze about half the lemon over the salad and add more olive oil to coat the ingredients.
3. Add more lemon juice, olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste.

As with any salad, you can substitute the ingredients to your taste. This is just the taste profile that David and I prefer - bright and lemony with lots of different textures. The seeds and almonds provide a satisfying crunch while the beans and mushrooms give a wonderful creamy texture. The sun dried tomatoes top it all off with their slightly sweet, chewy goodness.

If you find yourself needing a mini detox or just want to eat a light, flavorful salad to remind you of warmer days ahead, give this dish a try. I think you'll enjoy it!


Shared with What I Am Eating, Backyard Farming Connection HopTasty Tuesdays, Tweak It TuesdayDown Home Blog HopThursday Favorite ThingsCreative Things ThursdayHome Sweet HomeHealthy Vegan FridayOld Time PartySunny Simple Sunday    

Friday, February 22, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday

Welcome to our series "Feathered Friend Friday." Every Friday I write a post with interesting facts, photos, videos, or funny stories about our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here 
Recently it has seemed that I'm buying chicken feed way too much. I noticed that the guineas have figured out that there is always food in the chicken coop, so they have learned to treat themselves several times a day. The guineas free range, so in the winter I do provide supplemental grain since there's not a lot for them to eat out in the woods. I normally give this to them at night, but they have outsmarted me and like to help themselves to the feed meant for the chickens.

Both the guineas and chickens tend to be messy eaters and it appeared that more feed was being wasted than eaten. I was getting frustrated by this, so I decided to switch them over from crumble feed to pellets. The pellets are larger so there will (hopefully) be less waste. For a couple weeks I gradually mixed in the pellets with the crumbles so they could get used to them, and now they are only given pellets.

They tend to go after the pellets voraciously! I usually grab a bucket of feed to refill their feeders every couple days, but sometimes they are too hungry to wait an extra few seconds for the feed to get from bucket to feeders.

The guineas were especially hungry this day and fought their way to the food however they could.

I couldn't help but laugh. I let them eat out of the bucket for a while before filling up the feeders. I'm going to venture a guess and say they are used to the pellets by now!


PS - Just so you guys know, I may not be around much this weekend. We had a bad ice storm yesterday that knocked our power out and toppled many limbs and trees. The power may not be restored until the first of the week, so I may be in the dark for a while. Now I really get to try my hand at being a pioneer woman!
*Update* Power restored! So thankful for electricity!

Shared with Farm Girl Blog Fest, Clever Chicks Blog Hop  

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Cake Pops

My birthday was last week and I got some awesome gifts, cards, phone calls, text messages, and facebook messages from thoughtful family and friends. They sure do know how to make a girl feel special. I've always loved my birthday and though I'm normally not one for being the center of attention, on my birthday I do enjoy all the attention!

David knows how important my birthday is to me, especially after forgetting it several years ago. Before he left for school, he hadn't wished me happy birthday yet, so I said, "You know what today is?" and he replied, "Jeans day!" because it was on a Friday and he got to wear jeans to school. I didn't say anything, I just let it go until later that night when he profusely apologized. I forgave him, and it's a great thing to hold above his head every now and then :)

On my birthday this year, he had to work at the basketball game concession stand after school, so he didn't make it home until about 9pm that night. I heard his car pull up in the driveway and he was taking longer than usual to make his way inside. I had a feeling that he had something special for me, so I waited impatiently. He rang the doorbell and I knew something was going on. I opened the door and he came in, got down on one knee, and handed me these.

"Happy Bday Tabes" - Tabes is his nickname for me :)

I immediately started to cry, because I remembered the week before when he told me he needed a dozen eggs to take to school. I didn't ask any questions, just made sure he had the eggs before he headed out that morning and I forgot about it. But I instantly made the connection that he had given our eggs to the person who was making the cake pops for me (his superintendent's wife, Carmel, who recently started up her catering business Carmel's Creations). He knows that I don't like to eat anything made with animal products unless I know exactly where the animal products came from, so he was in cahoots with Carmel to make these cake pops with ingredients that I would feel totally ok with. She also made them as low in sugar as possible and ordered in special ingredients just for my cake pops. Apparently they had been in talks for quite a while over my delicious birthday gift!

Then, after giving me the cake pops and while I was a blubbering mess (to my defense, I had watched a sad tv show right before he got home), he stayed down on one knee and read a poem that he had written for me earlier that day. The blubbering continued.

I felt so special that he went out of his way to arrange for a gift that truly fit me and what I love. I often feel out of place when it comes to food since I don't eat meat and don't like to eat eggs unless they come from our own chickens so I know for sure that no animals were mistreated in the making of my food. It always makes me feel so loved when my family and friends go out of their way to make special vegan or animal-friendly versions of my favorite treats so that I can eat them with a clear conscience.

I'd say after this birthday, David has totally made up for the "jeans day" debacle!


Shared with Tweak It Tuesday 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday

Welcome to our series "Feathered Friend Friday." Every Friday I write a post with interesting facts, photos, videos, or funny stories about our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here     

I've seen my chickens eat some really weird stuff. Pretty much anything is fair game, including mice and frogs (ewwww). This time, it wasn't quite as gross, but definitely kind of strange and something I'd never seen them eat before.


They were going crazy over the moss on the trees! It was kind of long and stringy, and they all took turns getting a taste.

Red seemed to enjoy it the most and kept going back for more. I searched online and couldn't really find anything saying it was harmful for them to eat moss, so I let them have at it.

What's the strangest thing your chickens have eaten?


Shared with Farm Girl Blog FestClever Chicks Blog Hop, Backyard Farming Connection, Down Home Blog HopThe HomeAcre HopEco Kids Tuesday, Rurality Blog Hop   

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Clearing The Camera

Here are some recent photos I've taken that I wanted to share. Go here if you'd like to see more photo posts.

The fluffy butt brigade on patrol!
Baby taking shelter from the rain.

Cute shy cow from across the street.

Sylvester always wants to cuddle with Duchess.

Gorgeous emerald moss.

Store bought flowers to brighten up the house and get me through the winter.

Playing in the woods :)

David had a rough day on the farm. It's not all fun and games out here; we actually do work!

Hope you've enjoyed a slice of our homestead.


Shared with Down Home Blog Hop, The HomeAcre Hop, Farm Girl Blog FestWeekly Top ShotSunny Simple SundayEco Kids TuesdayRurality Blog Hop, Home Sweet Home, Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Creative Things Thursday, Farm Photo Friday   

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ginger Tea

Last week I started to feel something coming on. I woke up with a sore, scratchy throat and a stuffy nose. This has happened several times so far this winter, and my first plan of attack is always making a cup of ginger tea.

All I do is chop up some fresh ginger root (about a 1 inch piece) and steep in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. I strain out the ginger and add a squeeze of lemon juice, a drizzle of honey, and I drink it up.

Usually I start to feel better right away, and by the time I'm done with the tea my throat feels just fine. I absolutely believe that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and I try to take care of things naturally if at all possible and nip sickness in the bud before it has time to take over. Of course if I do get sick and my ginger tea isn't enough to kick it, to the doctor I will go.

In addition to natural remedies, I try my best to stay as healthy as possible by eating lots of fruits and veggies, making green juice at least a few times a week, and getting in some regular exercise. Since I gave up meat and cut way back on dairy a few years ago, I have not been knocked out by illness and I really think my lifestyle changes have helped.

Do you have any special tips for staying well during the winter months?


Shared with Sunny Simple Sunday, Tweak It TuesdayEco-Kids Tuesday, Backyard Farming Connection HopTasty Tuesdays, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Le Chateau des Fleurs, Home Sweet Home, Farm Girl Blog Fest, Down Home Blog Hop, The HomeAcre Hop, Backyard Farming Connection Natural Health Remedies, Creative Things Thursday     

Friday, February 8, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday

Welcome to our series "Feathered Friend Friday." Every Friday I write a post with interesting facts, photos, videos, or funny stories about our chickens and guineas. If you need to catch up, you'll find all the Feathered Friend Friday posts here    

To get you ready for Valentine's Day next week, I thought I'd dedicate today's FFF to one of the cutest couples on our homestead.

These are two of the guineas that we hatched last July (go here for more on that). After they were old enough to be let out to free range, we noticed these two were quite fond of one another. They were often away from the other guineas doing their own thing. Over time, they have become so loyal to each other and are always together, no matter if they are foraging for food in the woods or roosting in a tree for the night.

Guinea fowl tend to be monogamous, with the hen choosing her mate and sticking with him for life. How sweet is that? Maybe this is so sweet to me because that's basically what I did. I started dating David in high school when I was only 16 years old and he was my first and only boyfriend I've ever had. I can't believe I got it right on the first try! I feel so lucky and blessed that we found each other so young.

But back to the guineas! I snapped a shot of them looking like they were kissing, so I just had to do this -

Aren't they just the cutest? I love watching them together. I hope my little lovebirds help to get you in the Valentine's Day spirit :)

Do you have any special couples in your life or on your homestead?


Shared with Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop, Weekly Top ShotClever Chicks Blog Hop, Rurality Blog Hop, Down Home Blog Hop   

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Thrift Store Finds

Over the weekend we went to a nearby town to run a few errands. There is a thrift store in town that I've seen before and always wanted to check out, but we usually just keep driving. This time, I decided we would stop and see what the store had to offer. I'm so glad we did, because we found some cool items and got some incredible deals!

There was a lot of junk at the store, but we managed to find some diamonds in the rough. The first thing to catch my eye was a pitchfork. We've been on the lookout for one for a while now to help mix things around in our compost bin, but all the new ones I've seen are $25 or more and I didn't want to spend that much. This pitchfork didn't have a price tag, so we asked the guy who was selling it and he said it was only $3! It's in good working condition, so we snagged it.

I continued on to the kitchen section (my favorite part) so I could look for things to use in my food photos. I saw a couple of neat items and couldn't believe the prices - a white enamelware platter for $2, and a cute porcelain bowl for $2. Such a steal! You can see the enamelware platter in a photo in my last post :)

A really cool old soda crate caught our attention the most out of all the items in the store. No price on it either, so we found the guy selling it and he said he'd take $8. I was floored! Then he brought out another crate he had in the back. He said we could have this one for $8 as well and he even threw in all the soda bottles in the crate for free.

All in all, we were only out $23 for this shopping spree. I'd say we got some bargains! Few things I love more than a good deal. You can bet that the next time we're in town, we'll stop at this thrift store again - no more drive-bys!


Shared with Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

Sometimes I get very specific cravings. Usually chocolate plays a major role, but Saturday night I was craving something quite different. I was in the mood to bake a cake, but I didn't want it to be too sweet. I remembered some olive oil muffins that I had made in the past and searched online to see if there was a cake version. I came across this recipe for a rosemary olive oil cake and I was intrigued. I still have some rosemary hanging on in the garden, so I thought this would be a great recipe to try.

Oh my goodness, the cake was so delicious. The olive oil gave it a rich, fruity taste and the rosemary added such an interesting depth of flavor. Definitely not a sweet cake, but sweet enough so you know you are actually eating cake after all.

David and I devoured a couple pieces fresh out of the oven that night, then had some again for breakfast the next morning. It paired really well with a strong cup of coffee and made the perfect breakfast. It's even better sprinkled with a little powdered sugar and slivered almonds. David prefers a bit of honey on the side.

If you're in the mood for an interesting cake, give it a try! I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Go here for the full recipe.


Shared with What I Am Eating, Clever Chicks Blog HopHearth & Soul HopTweak It Tuesday, Home Sweet Home, Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop, Backyard Farming Connection Baking   

Friday, February 1, 2013

Feathered Friend Friday

If you've been reading my blog for any amount of time now, you know that I love to take photos of my chickens. Heck, I even started this series because of it! Most of the time I photograph them doing something I think is funny or particularly note-worthy, but every once in a while I like to take portraits of them.

Cam is usually always willing to pose. Whenever he sees me in his face with my camera, he freezes and just stares straight at the lens. He makes my job a lot easier!

The hens, on the other hand, don't like to stay still for very long. I usually have to compensate with a fast shutter speed and quick clicking; sometimes I get lucky and capture clear shots.

I love how Wikipedia describes portraits - "A portrait is an artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person." I think portraits definitely convey the mood and personality of the subject - be it human or animal. The intimacy and honesty in portraits can be so raw and touching.

What about you? Do you like to take portraits of your animals?


Shared with Farm Girl Blog Fest, Old Time PartyFarmgirl Friday Blog Hop, Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Down Home Blog HopRurality Blog Hop